If "Western" conjures up an image of tumbleweeds lazily crossing a landscape, accompanied by equally slow, dry, plots, allow PRETTY DEADLY to disavow you of that notion. With every issue, we learn more about the dangerous, mythically-infused world that DeConnick and Rios have dreamed up, and there's no room for tumbleweeds amidst a river of blood or a mad chase.
The third issue of this remarkable series calls out the importance of every character; Fox and Sissy aren't just vehicles to Deathface Ginny, they're principals in their own right, and have truly interesting stories. DeConnick is calculating in her execution of this story, allowing every element to be introduced with a very natural context and pacing, then revealing important details (backstory, motivation) where it fits best.
For readers who may have encountered some confusion after the first two issues: there's a handy recap that clears up exactly what was going on with that binder, Big Alice, and the rest. This issue, too, is strong on the exposition angle, and will quickly fill in histories and motivations that may not have been as evident before.
The power combo of Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire continues to stun with fluid, expressive brush strokes, tonally-perfect palettes, and dynamic, evocative panel layouts. The pages of PRETTY DEADLY are intricate -- inviting further inspection -- but not at the cost of clear, expressive storytelling. The "pretty" part of the title is one hundred percent executed in its panels; the art on this book is fantastic.
Emma Rios draws wonderful human beings, but I think readers may be more intimately familiar with Johnny (and his companion) than they expected to be. I have no objection to nudity or sexuality in comics, but aside from establishing that Johnny is really into brothels, I'm not sure why he's almost always naked. (On a totally selfish note, it just makes those pages super awkward to read at the office!)
PRETTY DEADLY is unlike anything else being published right now; it's a twist on the Western genre that has become very much its own story, infused with myth, mystery, and plenty of blood. DeConnick & Co. have crafted a fierce and unpredictable narrative, and continue to deliver it in the form of clever and beautiful pages. The late-2013 class of Image debuts has been impressive, and PRETTY DEADLY has been a gem among them.